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tv   Nightline  ABC  January 7, 2011 11:35pm-12:05am EST

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. . . tonight on "nightline," aflockalypse now? new reports of large scale bird deaths. scores of dead birds, fish and crabs around the world. what's happening? a sign. an omen. "nightline" goes in serarch of the truth. plus, dead man walking. one of washington's brightest minds caught on video in utter confusion hours before his body turns up in a landfill. so how did he get there? we have the inside story of john wheeler's last hours. and the two-term governor of minnesota on the short list of
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possible republican presidential candidates, an exclusive interview with tim pawlenty for our series "the contenders." good evening. i'm cynthia mcfadden. we begin with an environmental mystery. hundreds of turtle doves turned up dead in the parks and streets of a town in northern italy today. and scientists don't know what killed them. maybe not news that would normally cross the globe except that this is at least the sixth bizarre incident of its kind in the first week of the new year and that's not to mention all the dead crabs and fish. so what is going on? nick watt has our report.
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>> i would let them go outside right now. >> heard thumping outside. >> he said i heard what sounded like someone knocking at the door. >> it was unreal. something i didn't know what to think -- what to think. >> reporter: there's something strange going on and it's not that every man in town has a beard. >> all dead. >> the police were like not drunk, not on drugs and she immediately said you're calling about the birds. >> reporter: 3,000 red winged blackbirds on the ground. >> a little panicked. thinking it's the end of the world quoting 2012 prophecies and things like that. >> yes, ma'am, i was wondering why all the birds are just like dying. >> we are trying to find that out. we are trying to find that out. >> reporter: a hundred miles down the word 100,000 dead drum fish washed up.
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a coincidence? thousands more found dead in texas, louisiana, kentucky. >> we have blackbirds, star ling, sparrows, several species. >> reporter: in the chesapeake bay 2 million more fish. in florida, thousands of fish no longer snapping. 50 jackdaws. 00,000 crabs cold and lifeless on a beach. in brazil, 100 tons of fish belly up. and today, 8,000 departed doves in italy, blue stains this their little mouths. why, oh, why? internet frenzy, dead fish, a fast rising search time. was john wheeler murdered because he was about to reveal secret necessaries that killed the birds? were they killed by a bolt from
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the high research program in alaska? these are not the views of abc news or "nightline." overenthusiastic writers aflockalypse now, nice, took a different tact feeding what hollywood has already told us this. is the core in which they signal impending global doom. >> okay, something's happened. >> reporter: and this is flash forward, the birds were the 2:17 blackout about to strike all humankind. hang on. rewind to the beebe police chief. >> quoting "2012," prophecies and things like that. >> reporter: what? well, the ancient mayan calendar runs out next year leading some to believe the world will end too. also a california pastor says it will end may 21st based on bible
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readings. is the great tribulation prove sized upon us? at that time there will be great pain, suffering and death for those who have chosen not to follow god. no specific mention of dead crabs in england or blackbirds in arkansas, but the date the beebe birds died, new year's, sinister and significant or perhaps wherein lies a rational explanation. new year's fireworks, they got spo spooked? >> most don't see any better at night than you or i do. they aren't adapted to see at night like owls. if they went off of their perches at nights they're blind. it's like running into somebody on your bicycle. a fair amount of speed and no protection. >> reporter: and the fish in arkansas? probably disease.
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the chesapeake fish and english crab, cold weather, they say. high though they remember ya. >> i like a good conspiracy theory as much as the next guy but don't see a connection between these different cases. >> reporter: bodies are now being examined. >> we'll be looking for evidence of trauma, internal bleeding. >> reporter: and hopefully finding some rational answers, mass wildlife dieoffs as they're called do happen. on average, 163 are reported in the u.s. every year. >> they do happen and they happen every year, and i think a lot of the frenzy they were getting around the world is because the media and the internet have allowed more of these stories to be exposed and connected than normally happens. >> reporter: so perhaps no omen, no sign, no apocalypse, just a bunch of dead things. i'm not going to get all philosophical and stuff. stuff just happens in nature and
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we read dumb stuff into it. i'm nick watt for "nightline" in london. >> oh, nick. let ee just hope that's the end of that. when we come back new evidence emerges on the final hours of john wheeler, a washington insider found dead in a delaware landfill. what's going on? we ordered a gift online and we really need to do something with it... i'm just not sure what... what is it? oh just return it. returning gifts is easier than ever with priority mail flat rate boxes from the postal service. if it fits, it ships anywhere in the country for a low flat rate. plus i can pick it up for free. perfect because we have to get that outta this house. c'mon, it's not that... gahh, oh yeah that's gotta go... priority mail flat rate shipping only from the postal service. a simpler way to ship and return. if you're taking an antidepressant
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new details emerge this afternoon in the baffling apparent homicide of former pentagon official john wheeler
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police in delaware say that the night before wheeler's body was found, cameras caught him exiting a high-rise building wearing dark pants and a sweatshirt with a hood up. quite a change from the suit he was seen wearing in surveillance video from the previous night. here's pierre thomas with our report. >> reporter: the life of john wheeler iii and his death at first glance appear to be completely at odds. a life filled with honor, west point cadet, military man, harvard, yale, white house aide, mover and shaker who literally helped build an iconic memorial in washington >> let me now introduce to you mr. john p. wheeler, chairman of the board of the vietnam veterans memorial fund. >> reporter: yet in the hours before he died caught on surveillance tape looking confused and dazed walking with one of his shoes in his hand, then murdered and thrown in a dumpster, dumped like trash in a landfill. >> the fact that he's in the
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landfill is the most disgraceful part. >> reporter: who would want to kill wheeler? the police say it's homicide but won't say how he died. so many questions, police don't even know where the murder took place. now a small 60-man police force in a town of about 30,000 that averages one or two homicides a year and sometimes none must unravel a puzzle with missing pieces. wheeler worked in washington as a consultant and recently focussed often national security including ways to combat cyberattacks via the internet. on wednesday, december 29th wheeler arrived to wilmington, delaware, from washington to head to his home in new castle about 20 miles away. it's unclear if he ever made it there. those who saw him say he was acting strangely. wheeler had an odd encounter with a parking attendant. >> he had one shoe on and like he was just kind of like wandering around just looking around. >> reporter: he told a security guard someone had stolen his briefcase.
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>> he had been robbed and we was like, you need some money? he's like, no, so we said you can't be homeless if he ain't accepting money. >> reporter: wheeler is caught on video. there he is confused and you see he's holding a shoe. december 30th, a full day later wheeler apparently was still wandering aimlessly in downtown wilmington. he's seen again in another surveillance video a short time later at 8:42 p.m. he leaves a building and heads to 11th street and begins to walk southeast. in the video which is not released mr. wheeler is wearing dark colored pants and a dark blue hooded sweatshirt with the hood worn over his head. this is different attire from what is seen in the last video. it's as if wheeler is now lost, soon his life literally would be. a little more than 13 hours later at 9:56 a.m. on new year's eve a worker at this landfill sees his body falls out of a garbage truck to the ground. it turns out the garbage truck held the first key to the case.
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10 miles away in newark they found disturbing clues. police traced the pickup to ten dumpsters in a one-mile area. wheeler's body was stuffed in one of them. from there the trail grows cold and the case gets harder. they still have no idea where wheeler was murdered. >> you would love to have a crime scene because obviously that gives you some forensics to work with, what actually caused his death possibly. >> reporter: they're checking surveillance camera, atm machines and nearby businesses. >> you've got to figure out who he has communicated with and what his movements are. >> reporter: and small town new castle rest depths are shocked and afraid. "nightline" went to a local diner and bar where wheeler was a regular. >> this is a man who sat here next to me who every time he comes in orders a greek salad. will sit here next to me, have a beer, might do a shot with me. right now it's a mystery. >> reporter: police are focusing on a dispute between wheeler and one of his neighbors about
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construction in front of his house. police are investigating whether several smoke bombs at the construction site were set off by wheeler abc news has been unable to get comments from the neighbors. >> investigators are aware of that situation. they are looking into that as one facet of the investigation. >> reporter: sources tell abc news www.'scell phone was found in that same disputed house this. that was a number of a cab driver who has been questioned by police. >> i seen him one day by there. one day i seen him inside the store in there. that's all i know. >> reporter: some friends think wheeler may have been the target of a hit. others think he stumbled into a mugging and was the victim of random street crime. the sordid case feels far removed from the public life of the man of discipline who moved among washington's power elite. his passion, he worked tirelessly as chair of fund-raising for the vietnam
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veterans war memorial. >> each man was touched with fire in the vietnam war. in what ways have we found new fields for action or thought? are we living up to our potential as a free people? >> reporter: a man so concerned about giving honor to fallen comrades, murdered in a way where his killer afforded him no such dignity. for "nightline," i'm pierre thomas, new castle, delaware. >> needless to say we'll continue to follow the story and bring you the update. up next, he's on the list of possibilities for the republican presidential nominee in 2012. we go to minnesota to talk with former governor tim pawlenty. vñvñvñvñvñvñvñvñvñvñvñvñvñvñvñvñ
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he was almost in sarah palin's shoes, minnesota governor tim pawlenty was on john mccain's short list of potential running mates in 2008. we all know how that turned out. but now his name is being tossed around for the top spot on the ticket in 2012. this week tim pawlenty completed his second term as governor. my co-anchor terry moran sat down with him for our series "the contenders." >> reporter: in a lot of ways tim pawlenty is the anti-palin in the burgeoning field of republican presidential hopefuls. he just finished two terms as the governor of minnesota who finished his term. >> pull. dang it. >> reporter: he doesn't have a reality tv show. >> you can see russia from here.
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>> reporter: he's got about 20,000 followers on twitter. palin's got about 350,000. he's by no means a household name in america and he's got a very minnesota very easy-going, very mild public persona. but he does hunt. >> a little deer hunting, pheasant or duck hunting. some turkey hunting. we have wild turkeys had this area. >> reporter: we traveled to snowy minneapolis this week to talk to tim pawlenty. >> thank you. good afternoon. >> reporter: because while there are certainly better known republicans eyeing the presidency in 2012, sarah palin, newt gingrich, mitt romney and others tim pawlenty is seen by many republicans including rush limbaugh as a genuine contender and having just left office on monday, pawlenty who we talked to at a home of a aid is wasting no time. there are some that say you're already running. >> i'll make the final decision and announcement probably in march/april time frame. >> reporter: but pawlenty is
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already crisscrossing the country for months laying the groundwork in iowa and new hampshire and other key states and he's embarking on a book tour having just published "courage to stand" which looks a lot like a campaign biography so we asked him. what makes you think that you'd be qualified to be president? >> well, i think the country is in big trouble and we need leaders to emerge who understand that and see that clearly and i have a set of experiences as the chief executive of my state in minnesota. >> reporter: he was born and raised in minnesota. the youngest of five children. his father was a truck driver in blue collar south st. paul. things were tough and they got tougher when his mom died of cancer. >> when you're 16 years old and your dad spent most of his life as a truck driver and you have modest means and you lose your mom, you know it's a scary thing and you look to the future and say, hey, this might not work out so well for me so first i turned to my faith and also learned there is no substitute for hard work. >> reporter: he was the first one in his family to go to
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college then law school but got interested in politics. first city council then state house and in 2002 governor of minnesota. minnesota for so long the cradle of liberals like hubert humphrey, walter mondale. now al franken but pawlenty styles himself a sam's club republican. fiscally conservative, middle class, emphatically anti-elite. he won praise for holding spending but left a $6 billion deficit. runs for president as a prairie populist. >> i think what you got now is people have figured out that the country has been disproportionately influenced by big government, big unions and big business and they have coalesced into an iron triangle to basically screw everybody else. and the country is mad. >> sarah palin of the great state of alaska. >> reporter: john mccain's
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choice of sarah palin as his running mate stunned everyone including tim pawlenty who had been on the very short list of finalists. >> never had an entitlement mentality so it wasn't that disappointing but as it became possible, of course, your hopes get lifted and you start thinking about it more so, you know, i'd be lying if i didn't say you had some hope for that. >> reporter: that campaign rocketed palin to the pinnacle of the republican party and a possible presidential run. today pawlenty like every other republican is watching palin's every move and goes out of his way to praise her. so in your judgment she is qualified to be president of the united states. >> i think she can do a good job as president of the. >> is there a sense that among the people thinking about running for president in the republican party you are scared of sarah palin? >> scientisarah palin is a forc nature. whether she runs or not she'll have a lot of impact on 2012 and
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the republican party. i don't think it's fair to say people are afraid of her. >> reporter: he also praises the last republican president. george w. bush. >> i think george w. bush will go down in history as a strong and good and great leader. >> reporter: a great leader? >> well, he certainly didn't do everything perfectly, but this is somebody who had the courage of his convictions. i think history is going to treat him more kindly than the political chatter of the day. >> reporter: but can a guy like pawlenty compete with all the star power in the race this time? you know the general rap on you which is you're too nice. that at the end of the day maybe not enough pizazz for the presidency. well, how do you answer people who say that? >> you can either look at pizazz or look at people's records and what they stand or and what they got done and i'll take results rather than pizazz. pizazz compared to who?
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i'll concede maybe sarah palin, but really? i mean compared to the other folks who might be running? i think i compare favorably. >> reporter: pawlenty's wife mary is a lawyer and former judge and have been married for 23 years. >> i thought he was funny. i thought he was warm and engaging and all of those kind of things and i thought he was completely terrific. and over time we became friends first and then started dating after that. >> i thought she was really hot, terry. i still do. >> reporter: they've got two teenage daughters and share a devout evangelical christian faith. >> you both know where your hope comes from. you both know that's a cornerstone of who you are and what you believe and in times of great challenge you know where you're going to turn as a team and we both turn to god. >> reporter: if tim pawlenty runs, when he runs, it'll be all uphill for him and he knows it.
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>> life is hard. you know, you know, if this were easy, if the only object of the exercise is who has the most money or who is the most well known that's not me. but i think there's some other things the american people will be looking for this time and we got to get back to saying what's good for the country? what's good for everyday americans? >> the first in our series of 2012 contenders. our thanks to terry moran for that. when we come back, who will top the republican ticket? that's the subject of tonight's "closing argument." first here's jimmy kimmel with what's coming up next. jimmy? >> tonight's patricia heaton is here, brad womack and josh úcú;ckca/
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